Frederic Edwin Church
born May 4, 1826, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
died April 7, 1900, near New York, New York
American Romantic landscape painter who was one of the most prominent
members of the Hudson River school.
Church studied with the painter Thomas Cole at his home in Catskill, New
York, and they remained friends throughout their lives. From the
beginning Church sought for his subjects marvels of nature such as
Niagara Falls, volcanoes in eruption, and icebergs. He was greatly
influenced by the writings of Alexander von Humboldt, the German
naturalist and in 1853, while he was in Ecuador, stayed in a house where
Humboldt had lived. Church portrayed the beauties of the Andes Mountains
and tropical forests with great skill. Through his use of light and
colour and his depiction of natural phenomena such as rainbows, mist,
and sunsets, he created renderings that were realistic and emotionally
affecting. His combined interests in exotic locales and natural science
caused Church, on occasion, to approach a subject systematically. For
example, he painted the Ecuadoran volcano Cotopaxi over the course of
several years, in several states of eruption.
In 1849 Church was made a member of the National Academy of Design.
Among his major works are Andes of Ecuador (1855), Niagara (1857), and
Cotopaxi (1862). In his lifetime, Church received great praise for his
work and sold his paintings for high prices. He traveled widely in
Europe and the Middle East, but after 1877 he was compelled to abandon
painting because of crippling rheumatism in his hands. He diedat Olana,
his house on the Hudson River, which is now a museum. Enthusiasm for
Church's works was rekindled in the late 20th century, when art
historians began to consider him one of the foremost American landscape
painters. Church's long-lost masterpiece, Icebergs (1861), was
rediscovered in 1979.